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2015 Class of the FIBA Hall of Fame: Robert Blanchard

MIES (2015 FIBA Hall of Fame) - On Friday 17 July, FIBA announced the 2015 Class of Inductees of the FIBA Hall of Fame. In the lead-up to the Induction Ceremony taking place on 19 September in Lille, France, we profile the inductees.

Today we take a look at France's Robert Blanchard, a handy player in his day and latterly revered for his devotion to basketball as a referee and technical official.

The Roanne native has assembled an impressive legacy and body of work which is widely respected both in France and across the globe.

Originally a player with his hometown club where he won the French Championship in 1948, Blanchard was to achieve even more success and fame when he exchanged his playing shoes for a whistle.

Refereeing for some 25 years in French basketball, he was the leading official of his era and that was underlined by the outstanding 14 French Championship Finals which he refereed - along with hundreds more games he called in the league.

It wasn't long before he also made a name for himself worldwide and spent two decades between 1954 and 1974 on the international stage, during which time he officiated in 236 international games.

Ranked among the top 10 referees in the world for some 10 years, he built a stunning resume as he frequented all of the major tournaments in the sport.

In charge of calling eight games at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the tournament culminated in Blanchard refereeing in the Final, which was one of the highest points of his stellar career. Indeed he still remains the only French referee to have accomplished this feat.

He also officiated at the 1959 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Santiago, Chile while racking up the accolades from a trio of EuroBasket tournaments, two EuroBasket Women competitions and no fewer than six pre-European Championship events.

Blanchard was no stranger to the biggest basketball rivalry which existed at the time he was refereeing and that was the USA going up against the USSR. He got to call an impressive nine clashes for women and another four for the men. He also officiated in a game between the USA and Europe in 1972.

Truly known around the globe, the sheer spectrum and variety of events he was involved with as a referee certainly underlined his value to the game.

He refereed in the Moscow Games (1957), the Maccabiah Games (1957 & 1961) , the friendship Games in Dakar (1963), ) the Mediterranean Games in Tunis (1963), the African Championship in Casablanca (1964) and the South Pacific Games in Noumea (1966).

Blanchard also made a typically positive mark at club level too, calling 35 games in the European Cup for Men's Champions clubs and six for the Women's equivalent - including Finals in 1968 and 1969.

At the height of his success as a referee, Blanchard was already making valuable contributions as a member of the French Referee Technical Commission, which he served for a remarkable four decades between 1950 and 1993.

Possessing vast expertise from his travels and a deep knowledge and understanding of the game which was widely revered, he was the French Basketball Federation's (FFBB) Technical Commissioner for 30 years and appeared as a FIBA Technical Commissioner 71 times.

Meanwhile, being elected as a member of the French Basketball Academy in 2004 further reiterated the high prestige in which Blanchard is regarded - although a plethora of individual awards and accolades have been bestowed upon him.

In 1975 he was handed the FIBA Silver Whistle after he had retired and 20 years later, he was honoured with the FIBA Order of Merit.

Such global recognition was mirrored on home soil, with Blanchard also receiving the Gold Medal from the French Basketball Federation with the 'Coq d'or' received in 2008, as well as the silver medal of Youth and Sports.

His achievements will now be heralded once again, via his induction into the pantheon which is the FIBA Hall Of Fame.